News: Marines, Filipino counterparts lay foundation of friendship
Story by Gunnery Sgt. J. L. Wright Jr.
BARANGAY OF SAN JOSE, Philippines – Marines and sailors from Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade and their Filipino counterparts from the Philippine Marine Corps and Navy began rebuilding a two-room classroom at the Anastacio N. F. Dinglas Elementary School here nearly a month ago, as part of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2011.
Phiblex '11 is a bilateral training exercise between the U.S. military and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In addition to improving interoperability, the exercise also ensures disaster relief efforts are more responsive, efficient and effective and complements U.S. and Philippine humanitarian assistance efforts to improve quality of life for the Philippine people.
While the exercise itself is not scheduled to begin until Oct. 14, the project at the Anastacio N. F. Dinglas Elementary school was started in advance to ensure its completion prior to the conclusion of the exercise, according to Maj. David H. Rosenberg, civil affairs team leader, 31st MEU.
Rosenberg also said this project gives the Marines and their counterparts an opportunity to share their engineering capabilities in addition to giving the U.S. an opportunity to build something more concrete.
“We are building rapport with this great nation,” he said.
First Lt. Robert Jankowski, engineering platoon commander, CLB-31 and the project officer-in-charge said the original building in really poor shape and needed the overhaul.
“This building was in the worst shape,” the Philadelphia native said. “It was built in the 1960's so the wood was rotting and the tin roof was rusting pretty bad too.”
Jankowski added that the old structure lacked flushing toilets and required the students and staff to use buckets to remove waste.
Serving as the project OIC affords Jankowski the opportunity to complete 'side projects' if money and time permit. So far, those additional projects have included installing an electronic water pump in the school which will give the students flushing capabilities for toilets, building gutter systems in places throughout the surrounding village, or Barungay, and painting some of the tin rooftops.
“These are relatively inexpensive projects and they are something that will bring a lot of benefit to the community,” he said.
Both Rosenberg and Jankowski said the level of support from everyone has been great. Local dignitaries such as the mayor, Baranguy captain and police chief stopped by to see how the project was coming along and were extremely pleased with what the U.S. personnel and their counterparts are doing, according to Rosenberg.
In addition to local support, the United States Agency for International Development has donated 45 chairs and desks for students, a desk and chair for the teachers and three chalkboards for each classroom.
Although the group has been working six days per week for more than 10-hours per day, Cpl. Chadrick Green, an electrician with CLB-31, said the intangibles make it worthwhile.
"These classrooms are going to be here for 60 years or more. It feels great to be be making such a large impact," Green said.
For more stories and photos from Phiblex '11, visit www.facebook.com, keyword “Phiblex '11.”